“The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Before its famous debut on the Washington Lawn, Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I have a Dream Speech” in Detroit, MI. My grandparents marched with MLK down Woodward Avenue on the twentieth anniversary of the devastating Detroit Race Riots in 1943, with four of their young children in tow – the youngest pushed in a stroller. Two years later, my grandfather joined MLK again, this time in Selma. In 1965, after Bloody Sunday, Martin Luther King Jr. put out a call asking doctors to join the next Civil Rights March on Selma. My grandfather responded to that call, while Grandma and their five children stayed behind in Detroit while he went to Alabama. My grandfather was raised to share his privileges, that his haves gave him the responsibility to not just be generous but to use his privileges to shore up others.
The stories of my grandparents’ activism are Lenzo legends. A strength of character passed down generations with an expectation of love, acceptance, and self-sacrifice. “Of course we were there,” Grandma Susie tells me when I called to ask about the march down Woodward Avenue, as if it was a given because for them, it was. Grandpa Joey passed away on Martin Luther King Jr’s birthday in 2014. It seemed an appropriate Transition Day for a man who spent so much of his life fighting for Civil Rights and equality. This Saturday in DC, I will be traveling north from South Carolina to march on Washington continuing that Lenzo legacy.
Usually I can hear my grandparents responses while watching the news, knowing what they would say from experience. Joey would have some choice words, and Susie would butt in as a voice of reason. It’s been more difficult to predict their reactions to the news since the election, but on the phone with my Grandma, still bright-eyed in her 80s, she said that if she were younger or more spry she would be marching with my aunt at the Lansing Solidarity March. She expressed great pride knowing I am going to DC to march for change, knowing that her fight, my grandpa’s fight, will continue to be fought, knowing that our generations will continue to feed the fervor of revolution, and knowing that I am only one of hundreds of thousands of people coming together.
When Grandpa took the flight to Selma, he knew he was walking into an important moment but I don’t know if he grasped the gravity of that place in history. He was just a man, fighting for what was right. This weekend we are walking into another moment in history. But Saturday is just the beginning. Saturday is a chance to stoke the fires of Change, Revolution, Hope, and Love but we have to carry that flame with us always and forward. Our privileges are a responsibility to share and fight for others, our trials are stepping stones to building a better, more inclusive, future. Our greatness lies in our ability to grasp hands with our brothers and sisters and stand together without judging them by the color of their skin, the faith they follow, or the person they love. Together we rise.